Multimedia is a computer-controlled combination of text, graphics, sound, photographs, film, and other types of media. Multimedia programs have applications in education, entertainment, job training, and other areas.
The hardware needed to run multimedia programs usually includes a personal computer with a large-capacity memory, high-quality video and audio systems, and a CD-ROM drive. CD-ROM’s resemble audio compact discs, and they can store the enormous amount of data required for a multimedia program. Some systems enable users to record video and audio on a computer’s hard disk drive to create their own multimedia programs. Personal computers enable users to interact with multimedia programs–that is, users become active participants rather than passive observers.
For example, a multimedia program could employ an interactive story to improve a user’s Italian language skills. The story might involve a search for an apartment in Rome. The program could begin with a film clip showing a couple walking past several apartment buildings. The user would select a building and listen to the conversation between the landlord and the couple. At the end of the conversation, the user could decide to continue searching or to choose an apartment in that building. At any point during the story, the user could access the program’s dictionary or request a translation of the dialogue. Thus, the program incorporates film, sound, and text into an interactive story that enables users to practise Italian.
Many computer programs combine several types of media, such as text, graphics, animation, and sound. But most programs do not offer television and film clips or digital stereo sound. Such high-quality video and audio distinguish multimedia from other programs.